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Test: Mercedes Tourismo L

Long-distance champion

It may not be brand new, but the Mercedes Tourismo has celebrated many anniversaries and experienced great sales success in its time. To celebrate its tenth birthday, we put this dyed-in-the-wool long-distance bus to the test.

This bus is a true phenomenon on the roads of Europe. It may not be much of a head-turner, or particularly innovative, but since 1994 it has gone from strength to strength and celebrated one milestone after another. After more than 20,000 of the buses in the series had been built, 2014 saw the latest round of upgrades. Alongside the introduction of Euro 6 came a
further improvement to the safety equipment. Although this bus features neither a front collision guard (FCG) nor the expanded ABA3 emergency brake assistant for design reasons, the AEBS system (compulsory since the end of 2015) and the lane assistant
will be available as standard from the summer.

Thanks to its identical headlights, the Tourismo is the spitting image of the first Travego generation, although the little brother now boasts a little more visual extravagance with a bold downward swoop from the roof to the a-pillar. Made at the Hosdere plant near Istanbul (which is also celebrating its 20-year anniversary), this marathon runner is a no-nonsense vehicle free of any airs and graces. And this is exactly what so many companies all over Europe like about it.

The test vehicle put through its paces on the lastauto omnibus test route, painted in a subtle florett silver, also has a very specific task – namely long-distance travel. The
needs of this new business area, which is fortunately still enjoying a boom after three years, are virtually the perfect match for the qualities of the Tourismo: efficiency, maximum capacity and high utility. After all, Daimler does not point proudly to its market share in the segment of around 50 percent for no reason.

Wheelchair spaces as standard

The 52 Travel Star Eco seats don't even come close to fully exploiting the capacity of this 14-meter, three-axle bus. Full capacity is equivalent to 59 seats without toilet. The interior is also designed to comply with a new regulation. As required by the German Public Transport Act for long-distance buses from 2016, the high-tech bus offers space for two wheelchairs.

Although difficult to incorporate into the design, this feature is important for safety (simply imagine an emergency with an elevator in the back steps). Mercedes has gone to enormous design lengths, with a leaf door on the right behind the front axle and a wheelchair lift in the luggage compartment. This results in the removal of up to eight seats. This
is also one of the reasons why Mercedes prefers the 14-meter-long L variant for this purpose, rather than the 13-meter three-axle bus, whose significantly smaller turning circle is negated somewhat by the corresponding smaller luggage compartment. By comparison, the wheelchair lift and expanded 150-liter water volume of the heavy-duty toilet have virtually no impact on the 11-cubic-meter luggage compartment of the test vehicle.

Controls showing their age

The cockpit reflects the reserved look of the exterior, and largely corresponds to that from Daimler's intercity models. Generally plain, it features one or two visible screw heads. Operating the display menus is also somewhat awkward without the almost ubiquitous steering wheel buttons. The tachograph is also located very low beneath the shift lever. Looking past the small details, however, we have a top-class cockpit that is easy to control and offers both plenty of space and a good all-round view.

The attendant's space features easy-to-reach media ports and a large storage cabinet next to the door, which is more generously sized than its rear counterpart at 2.20 meters. Just as spacious is the standing room of just over two meters and the 28- x 31-centimeter storage compartments. The Travel Star Eco seats fitted in the test vehicle and made in-house by Daimler can now also be replaced by a version with extendable headrests, presented for the first time at the Busworld trade show.

Good consumption values

One of the strongest sales arguments for Mercedes-Benz has always been the robust and modern drivetrain, and this is the case in the Tourismo too. Although it doesn't benefit from the large OM 471, which has just been trimmed for greater efficiency, the bus is still pretty economical, even with the largest version of the OM 470. This 428-hp engine generates up to 2,100 Nm of torque. In the Euro 6 version, for example, the Tourismo delivers the same good consumption of around 29 liters per 100 kilometers as the two-axle vehicle tested by lastauto omnibus, whose Euro 5-standard engine delivers 408 hp and 1,900 Nm of torque, even though the test weight is three tons more.

You have to take your hat off to Mercedes for doing its homework here. Operators who want even more efficiency should look instead to the Travego with its reworked OM 471 engine, which generates 476 hp and up to 2,300 Nm of torque, and offers several other additional features.

Comfortable noise levels

The Tourismo L admittedly does not particularly enjoy driving up and downhill, as the built up speed peters out all too quickly on inclines. The perfectly shifting, automated eight-speed gearbox is occasionally overtaxed, and should be allowed to switch now and then to the integrated dynamic mode to call upon all its reserves.
At the end of the day, however, this marathon runner is more concerned with endurance than being a muscular power pack. And the Tourismo certainly achieved this aim, with 1,300 rpm at cruising speed. The proven chassis and low noise levels meanwhile give no cause for complaint. This vehicle will always be a popular choice among drivers and passengers alike. The cockpit is a calm and comfortable place. The only audible intrusion of note is the water retarder, which does its job with gusto but kicks in a little late.

Overall, the Tourismo enters its tenth year of production as a veteran model. The next anniversary came somewhat sooner than expected, however. Instead of the new model expected by some experts, the Busworld trade show in Kortrijk featured a premium special edition proudly bearing the "10,000th Edition" emblem. Newly ennobled, the bus keeps going and going and going – all the way to the next anniversary.

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9. Dezember 2015
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